Tuesday, August 28, 2007

American Taliban Watch

American Taliban

Parading about with your boxers boxers on display may be a tacky fashion statement, but it hardly warrants Atlanta enacting a law:
Baggy pants that show boxer shorts or thongs would be illegal under a proposed amendment to Atlanta's indecency laws. The amendment, sponsored by city councilman C.T. Martin, states that sagging pants are an "epidemic" that is becoming a "major concern" around the country.

"Little children see it and want to adopt it, thinking it's the in thing," Martin said Wednesday. "I don't want young people thinking that half-dressing is the way to go. I want them to think about their future."

The proposed ordinance would also bar women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
How about a burqua Mr. Martin? That'd certainly cover those women up. They actually want to prevent women from showing bra straps? The spaghetti straps on women's clothing are slimmer and therefore more revealing than bra straps - perhaps they shouldn't be allowed to wear those either? Or is it just that Martin and his ilk associate bra straps with sexuality and sex, for them, is dirty?

How far removed is this from the Victorian practice of dressing furniture legs in skirts to avoid indecency?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thou Shalt Not

With smaller font, he could've added some nuance

I came across this amusing update on the Ten Commandments today and was inspired to share a few thou shall nots of my own. Arguably some of these are more deserving of appearing in the Decalogue than the successful finalists:
Thou shalt not read Ayn Rand or take her acolytes seriously

Thou shalt not worship sitting Presidents or Presidential candidates of either party

Thou shalt not mistreat children

Thou shalt not stop short on the sidewalk

Thou shalt not watch Desperate Housewives, Entourage, Cops or Fox News

Thou shalt not be afraid to call Scientology a cult

Thou shalt not drink Budweiser, Miller or PBR

Thou shalt not embrace the label "hipster"

Thou shalt not discourage doubting or dissent

Thou shalt not wear clothing which advertises ostentatiously for Abercrombie & Fitch, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana or other such designers lacking in taste and subtlety without accepting due payment from the designer for said advertising
Feel free to add your own in comments.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Empire in Decline

Watching FOX's Cops seems to be the 21st Century American equivalent of sitting in a Roman Coliseum watching the condemned be executed in various dramatic fashions for the crowd's entertainment. Not exactly a step forward in societal evolution.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Debunking 9/11 Myths

Will all the folks who believe the U.S. government played an active role in 9/11 please read this Popular Mechanics article? Please? There are actual real-world problems worth protesting in Union Square. (Yeah, I know that folks who believe conspiracy theories have a pathological drive to avoid evidence which counters what they believe and to seek only that "evidence," which reinforces what they already believe*, but ... a man can hope, can't he?)

There's also an excellent NOVA documentary which details exactly how the WTC towers fell - without being demolished. And please let's dispense with the "no building in the history of architecture had ever collapsed this way" argument, shall we? No building had ever had a jetliner full of jet fuel crash into one of its upper stories, creating the pancaking effect, which NOVA's documentary describes in explicit detail. It doesn't take a degree in physics to understand what happened.

*I feel like there's a whole doctoral thesis waiting to be written on this subject, only someone's probably already done it. The principle applies in general to human beliefs, I think, not just conspiracy theories.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Great New York Moments

Casablanca at Bryant Park

Casablanca at Bryant Park last night. Despite all the lawn jockeying (folks arrive before 5 for a movie that begins at 8:30 or later), it was tons of fun. Everyone claps at the classic lines and at one line in particular, everyone cheers like mad:
There are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade.

- Rick Blaine in Casablanca

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Navigating Evil

I am not a pessimist: to perceive evil where it exists is, in my opinion, a form of optimism.

- Roberto Rosselini
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

- Friedrich Nietzsche
We ought always to deal justly, not only with those who are just to us, but likewise to those who endeavor to injure us; and this, for fear lest by rendering them evil for evil, we should fall into the same vice.

- Hierocles

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Boot Stamping on a Human Face

Always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

- 1984 by George Orwell
Rather than returning our liberties, the Bush administration has just curtailed them some more:
First, the law requires telecommunications companies to make their facilities available for government wiretaps, and it grants them immunity from lawsuits for complying. Under the old program, such companies participated only voluntarily – and some were sued for allegedly violating their customers' privacy.
Second, Bush has said his original surveillance program was restricted to calls and e-mails involving a suspected terrorist, but the new law has no such limit. Instead, it allows executive-branch agencies to conduct oversight-free surveillance of all international calls and e-mails, including those with Americans on the line, with the sole requirement that the intelligence-gathering is "directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States." There is no requirement that either caller be a suspected terrorist, spy, or criminal.
There's a scene early on in The Bourne Ultimatum where a reporter says the word "blackbriar" during a cell phone conversation in Europe and it triggers surveillance at the CIA within the United States.

It's chilling because it's not science fiction. It's current fact.

And how ironic that a (hugely entertaining) blockbuster about an individual combating big-government surveillance (and rendition) should come out the very weekend our real-life government has quantifiably extended its reach. It's a surreal world we live in when our diminishing freedoms are accompanied by Hollywood commentary and its attendant profits.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Darwin's Nightmare

Still from Kisangani Diary

In an interview on the Darwin's Nightmare DVD ,director Hubert Sauper explains the power of the documentary:
We are so full of information ... but we don't have the right type of information in a way ...

What does it mean 5 million dead in the Congo? It's just a number ... You say, OK that's a lot of people. It's far away. It's so many people that you can't imagine. In the east of the Congo is a war since 7 or 8 years that every day as many people die as on the 11th of September in New York. Every day. So September the 11th is happening every day in the east of the Congo. It's so beyond anything you can describe or imagine. ... Most people don't even know the number, but it's not enough to know the number. We need this other type of information which is very processed, which is communicated through art a lot.

Ironically, the art of cinema communicates things that we knew already, but we didn't quite understand, didn't have consciousness. There's this huge gap, this huge missing link between knowledge and understanding ... and real awareness. So cinema can make you aware of something that you knew for 25 years. And suddenly it totally strikes you. And suddenly you go, Jesus, this is something I should have known or this is something I never thought of, but I knew it already.

It's very necessary to have this other type of more subtle and more processed and more poetic information. I think you need the power of poetry to understand the tragedy of our time or the complexity of our time.
Darwin's Nightmare is an excellent, though highly disturbing documentary about how planes fly empty to Lake Victoria in Tanzania only to fly tonnes of fish, perch specifically, out every day for Europeans and Americans who can afford to buy them--this while the villagers in the same area starve. Only sometimes, Sauper reports, those same planes deliver weapons to supply the wars in the same area.

Sauper's earlier documentary Kisangani Diary also appears on the DVD and it includes some of the most devastating imagery of starvation I've ever seen. human beings who appear dead, buried in rubbish, who are only recognized as alive when they open their eyes or move their limbs ever so slightly, too weak to extricate themselves. Horrifically shrunken babies abandoned by their parents, Rwandese refugees who fled the avenging Tutsis.

One can only hope more people will see these documentaries and others like them, dark as their subject matter may be, in the hope that we humans will move collectively, as Sauper suggests, beyond casual knowledge into active understanding, into consciousness.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hillary Takes DC

Hillary Claiming DC

Look what my brother hath wrought. Nice details: The Presidential Seal as saintly halo is brilliant. There are t-shirts, too!

I Am Not an Animal!

The BBC reports that scientists have found the gene that causes left-handedness, so now people will have to stop considering us lefties to be freaks. The downside: lefties may be at a (marginally)increased risk for schizophrenia. On the plus side: we think more quickly (but you knew that), think differently, and we're better fighters. Next up, the study that proves that lefties are better lovers.

And to think my uncle used to get his hand smacked in school for writing left-handed. The horror!

Related: It's Left Hander's Day soon - Monday, August 13th.

50's 2 Cents

George Bush has a talent: He has less compassion than the average human being. By all means, I don't aspire to be like George Bush.

- Rapper 50 Cent in an New York interview about his influences.